Monday, November 13, 2006

True Confessions of a Selfish Knitter

After my last post, I have been giving much thought to this whole knitting business. The question that I keep turning over in my head is this: "Why do I have a manic compulsion to knit sweaters, when I don't have a strong desire to wear them when they are done?" That's not to say that I never wear my own sweaters. It's just that I rarely make one that is a favorite. This year has definitely been my "year of sweaters" (16 so far and counting), but few of them have been sensational. Sure, they came out well and, for the most part, I enjoyed knitting them, but when it comes right down to it, if I saw most of them in a store, I wouldn't buy them. Why?

After much deliberation, I have decided that it is largely a matter of gauge. Most of the sweaters I have knit were done on needle sizes 6 to 8 with an average gauge of 5 stitches to the inch. When I examined those that I recently purchased, the gauge was anywhere between 10 and 17 stitches to the inch. That, my friends, is small. To illustrate this, here is a close up of a sock that I knit on size 1 needles with a gauge of 9 stitches to the inch beside a strand of the yarn I used. This is the smallest gauge I have ever knit, and it seemed to take forever. In a rare display of knitting in public, I was working on this sock while waiting for my brunch at a restaurant, and the waitress asked me if I was knitting with toothpicks.

Here is the same strand of yarn held beside the yarn of one of my new sweaters, which has a gauge of 17 stitches to the inch. Had to get my peepers out to count those stitches!I couldn't tell you what size needle it would take to get that kind of gauge with yarn that thin, but it would probably involve at least 3 zeros. I'll be the first to admit that I have absolutely no desire to test this theory. Here's a close up of that sweater. It's 80% cotton and 20% angora rabbit hair. An odd combination of fibers that is very soft and comfortable (I wore it today). This is another of my new sweaters. It has a whopping gauge of 10 stitches to the inch. When compared to the previous sweater, that seems quite reasonable.... until you compare it to Pomatomus, which is knitting up at 8 stitches to the inch on size 2 needles. Being a person of somewhat smallish proportions, I like wearing multiple layers of thin garments. I feel puffy in heavy sweaters and, lets face it, I like to be able to bend my elbows. I have a vivid memory of being a teenager and wearing a heavy rag wool sweater over an oxford shirt with a turtleneck beneath. Whale motifs were involved. It was the 80's, everyone was doing it. Thanks to "What Not to Wear", I have learned that this is not a good look for me.

Unless I decide that I can stretch my knitting attention span to say, 2 sweaters per year, I am not going to be knitting myself any sweaters on size 0000 needles. Which brings me to the other issue: intricacy. While I love to wear garments worked entirely in stockinette stitch, I find them deathly boring to knit. I must be pretty vocal about this too, because when Mr. Strange saw a photo of "Refined Raglan" he remarked: "That's a lot of plain knitting. Aren't you going to be bored?" (He's paying attention!!). However, as much as I enjoyed knitting some more intricate patterns, I feel like they are a bit over the top to wear. Case in point: Dibs on Ribs. I loved knitting this sweater, but I feel a bit silly wearing it. "Woo hoo! Look at me! I knit!". Sadly, the best compliment I receive from non-knitters is "That looks store-bought".

Well, now. I haven't even brought up the cost factor. Here's a newsflash: yarn is expensive. I can buy a cashmere sweater for $39.99 on sale (after Christmas) at Macy's. It would cost me at least $200 to make the same sweater. Would I do it? Maybe. If I found a really good deal on cashmere and the pattern was interesting. Yeah. Would I pay $200 for a sweater? Probably not. I don't like to spend that much on clothes! It's OK to laugh.

The obvious solution is to stop making sweaters for myself, and start making them for other people instead. Aha! But here's where I get really stuck. I am a selfish knitter! I don't want to spend all that time, energy and money on someone else! As soon as I start knitting for someone else, it becomes "work" and not play. Instead of "I want to do this", I am under the yoke of "I have to do this". Before you start thinking that I am totally awful, I am mostly talking about sweaters. I don't mind whipping up a hat, mittens, scarf or pair of socks for someone else. It's the sweater thing. What's a girl to do? Here's my short list of solutions and accompanying retorts:

1. Suck it up and knit for someone else. I have begged Mr. Strange to let me knit him a sweater. He wants a sweater made with self-striping sock yarn. He's shown me photos of garments parading as sweaters straight out of "The Crosby Show". No. 'I'll do anything for love, but I won't do that'.

2. Design sweaters. I stink at math. Olive nearly did me in. Everything I designed would be constructed from rectangles. Wait a minute, someone has already done that.

3. Knit for Charity. But, but, but....most charities call for hats, mittens, afghans and scarves (phew!)

4. Become a sample knitter for a designer/yarn manufacturer. OK. This one holds my interest, except that it would be work in a way, but at least I could play with fibers, colors and patterns that I would never want to wear. Know anyone out there who needs a knitter?

5. Stop knitting sweaters and start making afghans. Euuuuw. (Ewe?)

Obviously I have not found the solution yet. Until I find the answer, though, I think I am going to invest in some large plastic storage bins and cedar bags to stash my sweaters in. Someday, I may change my mind. Let's just hope they all fit when I'm 84.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Haha, you're so funny! I love the Meatloaf reference!

I say that you start making sweaters for children. They are less time consuming, you can make them in crazy colors cause children will wear almost any color, and the pattern, even if boring, will change quickly because the garment is so small!

Another surprise is coming next week!


SP9 ;)